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La Russa wants to clinch playoffs on field

La Russa wants to clinch playoffs on field

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DENVER -- Throughout the season, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa watches a lot of baseball. He watches the A's and White Sox, the two teams he used to manage. He watches the Tigers, managed by his good friend, Jim Leyland.

He doesn't, however, watch the Cubs unless he absolutely can't avoid it. Even in June, watching a division rival simply makes him too nervous. So you can be certain he didn't watch on Thursday night, when the Cardinals were off and a Cubs loss would have given the Cards their fourth division title in six years. In fact, he got out of the team hotel just to make sure he didn't check in on the events at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

He took in a movie instead.

"It was the first movie I went to all season," La Russa said with a laugh. "I did turn my phone off. Why be nervous?"

Even stranger were his rooting interests. La Russa, like many in the clubhouse, didn't want the division race to end if the Cardinals weren't on a ballfield. He prefers to clinch a championship by winning a game. After all, this is the same man who insisted that his team had not clinched the 2004 division title even when they were assured to win by tiebreak.

During that season, a sign was posted on the wall in the Busch Stadium clubhouse reading, "Championships are won on the field, not by some formula!" So it's little surprise that La Russa didn't want the magic number to drop to zero on an off-day.

"It was the first time I've pulled for the Cubs in a long time," he said. "The dream come true is to try to win it [by winning a game]. We had a chance on Wednesday night, although that was different, because you had the anxiety with a close game over there. Here, it's clear. If we can win the game, [we clinch]. So I definitely was pulling for the Cubs to win."

He got his wish, though it was difficult. The Cubs rallied in the ninth for a comeback win over the Giants.

"I didn't even know how close it was," La Russa said. "I didn't know it came down to two outs in the ninth. I think I checked at home one time, and [found out] it was 1-1. And then when the ballgame was over."

On Friday, though, it was different. After the Cards lost to Colorado, they waited in the clubhouse to watch the Cubs game. If Chicago had won, the Redbirds would have popped the champagne as division champions. But, instead, they wait another day.

As for the movie? La Russa saw "Inglourious Basterds." Told that the reviews had been mixed, he said he wasn't surprised.

"I'll give a both-ways opinion," he said. "I thought it was smart, and I thought it was labored a bit at times. It was a fascinating plot. It was really interesting. But there were a couple of times I was kind of squeamish with the violence."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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